Sports participation post decompression surgery

Have a child with SM/Chiari? Share issues unique to children and their caregivers.

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Sports participation post decompression surgery

Postby 07192007 » Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:55 pm

Hi Everyone,
I have a 13yo daughter who was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and a "fairly significant" Syrinx on July 11, 2007. On July 19, 2007 she underwent decompression surgery, Dura enlargement, and C1 laminectomy (I probably have all those terms wrong!). Her only residual symptom is a vague complaint that her right hand feels "different". She still has most feeling and all of her strength in this hand. I could write a novel about the last month, so I'll stop there.
Here is my real question: She has played very competitive soccer pretty much all her young life. At the two week follow-up post surgery, the surgeon said she could start running, swimming, etc. as much as she could tolerate. At six weeks post-op, he said she could resume all her normal activities, including playing soccer! Needless to say, I am very scared and apprehensive for her. But on the other hand, I don't want her to have to needlessly change her whole life because of my fears.
Has anyone out there had an athlete that resumed to competition? Has anyone else been told differently? Any Chiari/Syrinx soccer players out there?

post decompression sports

Postby brianfsmom » Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:32 pm


I think you got all your terms just about right! At least, I knew what you meant! Surgery two days after diagnosis! Your heads must have been reeling.

My son is not a soccer player, and like you, I would be very anxious. I do remember there was a girl on here a couple of years ago who was a soccer player. In fact, I think she was actully hit in the head with a ball when her symptoms started. Her grandmother used to post, but I haven't seen her in a while. I do know the girl did go back to soccer.

Ultimately, you have to do what you feel is best. Are there other sports she can do? Can she play without heading the ball? Otherwise you just have to trust the doctor. Of course they can be serioulsy injured, but in reality, so can any child, in any sport...our risks are just a bit magnified.

Good luck to your daughter. I do know what it is like to live with this every day. I worry about every little thing. You see, my son will turn 12 on Saturday, and that, in itself, is a contact sport .. just being a 12 year old boy!
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resuming sports

Postby AtlHoops » Wed Aug 22, 2007 5:21 pm

Our Dr told us that provided the decompression surgery went well, they are actaully in great shape to resume competitive sports. My daughter plays soccer as well tho she is only 8. His take on it its that the pressure has been released so the risk of harm is equal to that of any other individual.
In our situation, we found out 3 months post op that the surgery was not a sucess so wait until you get another MRI to be totally sure, a (little) safer than sorry. Good luck

Competitive sports & CM SM

Postby D4l » Wed Sep 12, 2007 2:47 pm

We gave up soccer at the Doc's suggestion. My 11yo son had the same "repairs" 2 years ago and we were told that impact to the back of the head/base of the skull could be dangerous. He has less bone to protect from impact. Not only heading the ball in soccer pose a risk but being hit from behind with the ball, as the ball is moved up field. Other sports like baseball, which he loves, were OKed because he wears a helmet while at bat or on base and the ball rarely comes at the player from behind. Basketball was approved for now, but the boys get pretty rough under the hoop and I guess we'll give that up next year. My son has "replaced" soccer with crosscountry running and competes with his Jr High team and loves it. I do feel that being able to continue sports is important and I am happy we found a few that work for us.

I must add that not all 11yo soccer players play in leagues or competition that are the same. Soccer during a field trip to the park is certainly different game than the U12 United Traveling Team ALL-Stars. Oddly enough, we have had to give up playing the trumpet due to concerns over inter-cranial pressure. Your doctor and common sense will help you make a decision that is good for your child.
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Postby brianfsmom » Thu Sep 13, 2007 4:34 pm


that's interesting about the trumpet. My son played in 4th grade but had to stop because that was the year he was diagnosed and had surgery. He did pick it up again 5th, the doctors said it was OK. I had concerns, but he never had a problem. Of course, he probably only blew the same five notes over and over, one at a time.

Did your doctor tell you to give it up, or did your son get headaches from it? Brian finally gave it up due to lack of interest. He's taking piano lessons now and loves them.
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Football postop?

Postby willsmom » Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:19 pm

I am shocked (and somewhat hopeful) to hear of these doctors saying competitive sports are ok. My 14-year-old son was just diagnosed with CM and SM last Friday. We haven't even een our neurosurgeon yet but I have spoken with another neurosurgeon who is the cousin of a friend. This doctor said absolutely NO competitive sports at all ever! I would consider soccer competitive sports, though obviously not to the degree that football is.

I won't tell my son about this yet. He is beyond devastated that he can't play football ever again. High school football is a HUGE deal here in Texas. He just started high school and had dreams of playing in the NFL. Long shot but still his dream.
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benching kids from sports

Postby D4l » Tue Oct 09, 2007 11:50 am

It is hard to give up a passion at any age. My CM SM 11yo gave up soccer because of the risk of impact and injury. I was a bit prepared to handle his objections because I had been through something similar with my oldest son who was concussed many times playing football from 5th grade to his junior year.

Over those 7 years he maybe had 9 concussions. We engaged in a battle of wills with him that lasted, it seems, forever. We found that very few doctors correctly understand return to play decisions for teenagers and none could say if another concussion would do irreperable harm. Several sports doctors cleared him but we would not because of common sense and fear. I consider myself a concussion "lay-expert" now along with my "psydo-degree" in CM SM; a continuining education via PubMed,etc...
I wanted good information to base my decision on but it was hard to find or non-existent. My son believed I took it all away based on nothing solid.

My son hid symptoms from us. He wanted to play. His team needed him at quarterback. He was very good at QB and at hiding the fact he was concussed. After a concussion ending his Sophomore year season and then one his Junior year the whole history started to come out. He was scared that he was doing damage that would last and he was. He opened up to us and we refused to let him play football. His coach badgered him and humiliated him. The coach challenged the doctors diagnosis. It was and awful time with a very frustrated, no ~ angry 18 year old! He was supposed to be focussing on school and he took an attitude that he didn't care about his school or anything. He could have played college QB and maybe gotten scholorships. Instead he got over his anger at us for taking football away and he is healthy! At 20 he still is not sure we did the right thing but we are. He had a wonderful doctor who told him he would need his brain to make his livelyhood. He showed him how much more money an educated person makes over a lifetime. While I don't believe it takes big bucks to be successful it was an effective strategy to gain cooperation from a young man who had almost given up.

The key for me was to look at the situation , not as a 40ish mom, but from his perspective. I have never been an 18year old boy and I had to try to feel the loss the way he did. It was a kind of mourning. It was like he lost a loved one. He lost something that gave him an incredible rush, the agressive release of energy. He is so very ADHD but when he would play he was in total control and focus. He loved this feeling, the intensity. He was a leader and was looked up to. He could motivate his teamates and be respected under the Friday night lights. He was so very angry that his body would not let him continue, not to mention his parents.

I made him take cross country his Senior year. He was not very cooperative but we held his car as randsom. We were so mean! He found CC to be very challenging and grew to love it too. He reconnected with his school. He also became addicted to the thought of pushing his body to it's very breaking point, to the brink of collapse at the finish line. He had to compete each race against himself and his previous time. Running was an aggressive sport for him only without the full bodily contact!

My point, from this long winded post, is that nobody was going to make this kid quietly accept couch-sitting. We had to find a safer way to let him be who he is. Be creative in finding alternative passions. I found it very hard to "ruin" his life by taking football away because I love him so much and it hurt him so badly, but he would get over it, hopefully, in time. Another concussion would likely have hurt his quality of life more, if he was lucky enough to have survived.

All three of my boys really get into running CC. My oldest ran just one year, my middle son is runnning in his 3rd year as a Junior and my "baby" and CM SM has just finished his first season. Just because he had neurosurgery doesn't mean his personality will change! He is an ADHD dinamo like his older bro. I would "ruin" his life too by benching him if I thought it was best.

People who have not had to be in my shoes probably think, "Duh, it's a no-brainer (pardon the pun)" to pull a kid from sports. This conflict seemed to last forver and it effected every part of his life and our relationship. It was more complicated than it seems. Will he get ticked off and quit trying at school? Yes, he did and his GPA tanked out and so did scholorship opportunities. Will he start risky behaviors? Yes, he started drinking and I don't even want to remember some of his dates! Will his self esteem suffer? You betcha. But I NEVER GAVE UP ON HIM. He has a good life and has done very well and I'm a very proud parent who would duke it out again 'cause I love them so dearly.
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